News broke of the death of Anthony Shadid just after 9:30 p.m. Thursday night. He died in Syria at 43, reporting as he so often did on a violent and dangerous conflict in the Middle East. As the story spread — he died of an apparent asthma attack, heading back to the safety of Turkey to put his reporting into words for the world to read — fans and colleagues of Shadid filled the Internet, mourning one of the top reporters of the times.
Shadid’s name quickly became a trending topic worldwide and colleagues from The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Associated Press and the New York Times shared their portrayals of a committed journalist, a generous colleague and a close friend.
Colleagues at The Post reeled with the news when the executive editor e-mailed a note to the newsroom saying “It is with great sadness that I must convey that our former colleague Anthony Shadid died today in Syria. Anthony was a brilliant correspondent, and a loyal and stalwart friend to many.”
Read some of the memories of friends here:
Liz Sly, Beirut bureau chief, The Washington Post
“Anthony was without a doubt the finest foreign correspondent of our generation, and perhaps the best ever. He had the gift not only of being able to penetrate the complexities of the Middle East but to elucidate them with a breathtaking eloquence that left you saying yes, that’s exactly how it is. He was also as wonderful a person as he was a journalist. He would have had every right to be arrogant, but that was the last word you would ever associate with him. He was a warm and generous colleague and friend, always willing to share insights, tips and help out with logistics. He could be endearingly humble about his own brilliant work and was quick to praise that of others. It was only at the poker table that you caught glimpses of his competitive spirit. But even when he lost, which wasn’t often, he did so with the same easy grace that he brought to his writing. His death leaves a gaping hole for all those who knew him, the Middle East and journalism.”
James F. Smith, former Boston Globe foreign editor
Of Shadid’s courageous on-the-ground reporting as a Globe correspondent in Israel and the West Bank during the bloody intifada in 2002, during which Shadid was shot in the shoulder in Ramallah on Easter Sunday.
“Even though Anthony was badly wounded, he didn’t want to come out of Ramallah unless he was allowed to take a Palestinian colleague with him through the Israeli checkpoint. It took hours to negotiate that passage, and Anthony’s life was at risk but he wouldn’t come out on his own. ... It was an example of the kind of courage and concern for others that Anthony showed again and again, throughout his career.”
Steve Fainaru, a former Post reporter who worked extensively with Shadid in Iraq
“He was the best reporter, his attention to detail was amazing, he wrote poetry on deadline. He’s just completely unflappable. But all I can think of is him as a person. He was one of the kindest, most compassionate, most empathetic people I ever met. He’s such a great friend. And that’s what made him so great as a journalist — he was able to somehow find compassion and empathy in everything he touched and wrote about.”
Philip Bennett, former Washington Post managing editor
“Anthony had the ability to see beneath the surface of events, to hear and observe and understand things that eluded almost everyone else around him. He changed the way we saw Iraq, Egypt, Syria over the last, crucial decade. There is no one to replace him. I saw him last month with [his wife and children] and he was so filled with ideas and intensity about events, especially in Syria.”
David Hoffman, former Washington Post foreign editor
“Anthony Shadid’s magic was reporting. Everywhere he went, he absorbed stories about people and their trials. Once when he was working on his second book, ‘Night Draws Near,’ we had a long talk about how to do it. And I saw how he did it: bundles of notebooks from Iraq, thousands of pages — stories, impressions, smells and sights.
“For years before the Arab Spring, Anthony had given thought to the tensions building up in the Middle East. We had talked often about identity, and whether the old order would eventually crack. In early 2006, he wrote his editors at The Post a letter sketching out what he wanted to do. He wrote, ‘Identity, I think, sits at the heart of everything going on in the Arab world today.’ He wanted to probe what would happen when the frozen leadership of Arab countries would crack. He said Arab peoples were asking, ‘How do we conceive ourselves? And what system best expresses that?’
“He was right. The Arab spring was what he had been waiting for.”
David Beard, former Associated Press, Boston Globe colleague
“Anthony stood out for his clarity of thought, gentleness of spirit and the depth of his determination to put a human face on North Africa and the Middle East. He was a diehard Green Bay Packers fan, a fact he put in his brief Twitter biography.
“In recent conversations, he had expressed great hopes for his new book, to be published next month. For Shadid, whose vivid writing seemed to flow effortlessly, the new book emerged only after numerous rewrites and exacting editing.
“He defied Libyan guards in March 2011, holding onto Lynsey Addario, a New York Times photographer and fellow captive when a guard tried to drag her from the cell.”
Theola Labbé-DeBose, former Washington Post special Baghdad correspondent
“I shouldn’t know Anthony Shadid personally. I’m not a full-time war correspondent; I’m a local reporter. I don’t speak Arabic. But our paths crossed intimately in 2003 when we lived together as colleagues in Baghdad covering the evolving aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion.
“It was a new war back then and I was new, too. When I arrived at the Post’s elegant Baghdad house and met Anthony, he greeted me as if having a novice reporter drop into a war zone was the most natural thing in the world.
“He was always happy to talk. In the house our bedrooms were just a few feet away from each other. If I knocked on his door to ask a question or kick around an idea, he always invited me in, even after another one of his 12-hour reporter days.
“In those days Western reporters could safely roam the streets of Baghdad openly with pen and notepad in hand. Anthony was always so excited to share his daily reporting experiences over our nightly group dinners, conveying just how special it was to be able to interview Iraqis after the fall of Baghdad compared to Iraq’s restrictive reporting environment under Saddam Hussein. He was like a kid in a candy store with a fat allowance in hand, finally unleashed and ready to go and do what he deeply desired.
“How could someone so talented always be so generous? He shared himself and his love for the Arab world with anyone who could read or who wanted to listen. That is his lasting legacy to me, and countless others.”
Jackie Spinner, former Post colleague in Iraq
“I was so young and inexperienced when I met Anthony in 2004. In fact, I was so inexperienced I didn’t even know how great and accomplished he was. He didn’t carry himself as the greatest foreign correspondent of my generation, but in the years watching him report from Iraq and reading his work, it was obvious he was.
“Living with him at the bureau and working with him, he was just Anthony to me, a kind, compassionate colleague. In his quiet way, he taught me how to listen to people, really listen to them. As a reporter now, I try to understand more than I try to be understood, and I learned that from Anthony. He probably didn’t even know he taught me that.”
Bassam Sebti, former Washington Post special correspondent in Iraq
Ever since I worked with him at the Post’s office in Baghdad, I knew every word he wrote was powerful. I learned his style and focused on how he asked questions. There was a meaning in everything he asked. That I took as the best journalism school ever.
Today, I’m heartbroken to hear that a world journalism icon passed away. Foreign correspondents like Shadid continue to pave the road for better and credible news coverage that no one can silence except death. Rest in Peace, Shadid. Your legacy continues and will never die as long as there are journalists who follow your path of revealing the absolute truth around the world.
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